SoftBank Vision Fund-backed companies to form JVs with Grab to crack SEA

Grab co-founder Anthony Tan
Anthony Tan. Photographer: Ore Huiying/Bloomberg

SoftBank Group Corp has asked ride-hailing major Grab to forge alliances with portfolio companies of its gigantic Vision Fund looking to enter and expand in Southeast Asia, according to a Bloomberg report.

SoftBank chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son has tasked Grab CEO Anthony Tan with leading the effort, the report said.

Grab president Ming Maa had recently said that SoftBank aims to create a “unicorn farm” by bringing unicorns backed by the Vision Fund to the region.

“Our core strategy with SoftBank is to create a unicorn farm [in Southeast Asia]. It is taking the unicorns in the Vision Fund and bringing them to Southeast Asia. There will be an explosion of partnerships in the next 12 to 24 months,” Maa had said.

According to the Bloomberg report, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son describes this strategy as ‘gun-senryaku’, a Japanese term for how a flock of birds flies together.

Son had earlier explained his vision saying that he was creating a “strategic synergy group” or an extended family of companies where SoftBank would buy stakes of 20 to 40 per cent. Today, the Vision Fund’s sprawling portfolio includes Ping An Good Doctor, WeWork, Flipkart, Uber, OYO, Katerra, Open Door, Compass, Fanatics and Roivant.

Strategic partnerships are not alien to the ride-hailing major. Grab has been pursuing several this year such as HappyFresh, Ping An Good Doctor, Yahoo! and Moca, all of which have accelerated Grab’s expansion into new markets and business areas.

SoftBank first invested $250 million in Grab in 2014 before making subsequent investments, but it is not known how large its stake in Grab is.

SoftBank has also invested in Grab investors Didi Chuxing and Uber. Didi Chuxing co-led a fundraising round for Grab in 2017, while Grab acquired Uber’s Southeast Asian operations in exchange for a stake in itself.

SoftBank was last reported to be in talks to invest another $500 million in Grab’s ongoing round. Grab has said that it is on track to raise a total of $3 billion by year-end. Its other investors include Microsoft, Toyota, OppenheimerFunds, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Macquarie Capital.

Also read: 

SoftBank’s Vision Fund companies are heading to SE Asia via Grab, says Ming Maa

Microsoft invests in Southeast Asian ride-hailing major Grab

SoftBank nearing deal to invest $500m in ride-hailing firm Grab